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Marketing And Tech Groups Seek MBA Talent To Drive Digital Push

As technology puts new tools into companies’ hands, advertising agencies and the marketing departments of tech companies are desperate for new talent.

Wed Mar 25 2015

As technology puts new tools into companies’ hands, advertising agencies and the marketing departments of tech companies are desperate for new talent.

Marketing groups are struggling to find the right balance of strategic expertise and technological insight in new hires, say industry executives, and business schools report growing demand for students in the media industries.

Tim Holmes from the MBA in Media Management at Cardiff Business School says that traditional channels are in competition with technology companies.

WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, hires MBA students for a range of marketing, strategy and consultancy roles. “We’re open to applications from all the business schools,” says Frances Illingworth, global recruitment director at WPP.

WPP runs an MBA Fellowship Program that offers three, one-year rotations through different WPP companies and across a range of marketing disciplines.

Frances says that MBAs can bring more experience and more commercial skills than other graduates. “But they need to understand the impact of digital on the way clients operate [and] the way they sell products.”

She adds that WPP values candidates who are skilled in data analytics. “How one looks at data and media data is critical to our business now.”

The advertising and marketing sector is increasingly adopting video technology and this may be an area of career growth.

Tim at Cardiff Business School says: “The field of digital, on-demand video services is a prime area of career opportunity for graduates.”

He adds that many of his overseas students see a great deal of scope for the expansion and development of video streaming services around the world – particularly on mobile devices.

John Carey, professor on the Communications and Media Management MBA at Fordham Graduate School of Business, says: “We have placed our MBAs at every major TV and cable network as well as many start-ups and niche media companies.”

Helen Gammons, director of the MBA for the Music & Creative Industries at Henley Business School, says that in the media industry change brings great opportunity.

“Executives with the right up-to-date skill-set can do really well by watching for the impact of… Innovations that provide additional diversification and therefore job opportunities,” she says.

The most important skills for marketers are creativity, strategic thinking, knowledge of mobile and video technologies, and big data, say marketing directors.

Steve Hatch, regional director for the UK and Ireland at Facebook, says marketers should focus on four things – mobile, video, creativity and relevance.

“What I would urge marketers to be thinking about is how they can create ‘thumb-stopping’ work – what is the thing that is going to stop me in my tracks as I’m scrolling?” he says, at The Big Rethink – a marketing conference held by The Economist magazine.

Data is increasingly encroaching into the marketing world but Steve adds that focusing on technology is the wrong thing to do; marketers should instead focus on people and outcomes. 

“I’m very optimistic about the power of creativity and great quality to drive business outcomes – more than ever,” he says.

But there are concerns about whether chief marketing officers can adapt quickly enough to the pace of digital change.

Tara Powadiuk, global media partnerships lead at Microsoft, says that marketers must understand their audience and what devices they are using in everyday life.

They must find a “way that you can enrich that experience on their device with the content you are providing them through the story that you are telling them”.

Microsoft has in recent years expanded its recruitment, taking on about 300 MBA students into full-time roles and 75 for internships each year, who can help in its transition from a software company to a new-style devices and services group through brands such as Xbox.

Ioana Tanase, global MBA staffing consultant at Microsoft, says that MBA hires are worth the company’s investment. “They bring a lot of value, new skills and strategic thinking – which drives our business to the next level.”

Rob Bolton, a digital marketing manager at Warner Music and a lecturer on the Arts and Media Administration MBA at Schulich School of Business, says there may be major career opportunity in big broadcast media. But he adds that the market remains fragmented.

Daryl Fielding, director of brand marketing at telecoms company Vodafone UK, says that marketers need collaborative spirit, adaptability and drive. “That ability to listen respectfully and challenge is rare,” she says.

Talk in the marketing industry is all about data but Marie Steinthaler, head of marketing and growth at Hopster, a leading provider of digital coupons and engagement solutions, warns that marketers should not focus on the “funkiest new technology”.

“Where I see technology being really important is in driving decisions; using data to enable better conversations; and putting the customer back at the heart of the conversation,” she says.

Frances says that WPP should never forget that it’s a creative group. 

She says MBA programs can teach people particular ways of thinking, but that WPP needs a sense of innovation in its businesses.

“We’re not producing bankers and we’re not McKinsey,” she adds. “Our business is about brands and communication.”